A damning investigative report by a Dutch television station has said that employees of Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria sponsored oil pipelines vandalism in the country for their personal gain.
“According to sources, Shell employees profit from these intentional oil leaks by pocketing money from cleanup budgets,” the television station Zembla, which begins the airing of the investigative report on oil leaks in Nigeria, December 10, said in a release.
Zembla said the investigation, which took 18 months and looked at various leaks from 2010 till the present day, was done by a Dutch environmentalist organisation Milieudefensie, and that it (Zembla) verified its contents.
“It appears that Shell’s subsidiary SPDC is aware of these accusations but has done nothing about them. The Dutch embassy had knowledge of these accusations at the time as well, but hadn’t approached the company regarding the matter,” the release said.
“Shell employees persuade local youths to vandalize the pipelines. If a cleanup is necessary, these same youths are then hired to perform it”, Zembla quoted Washington Odeibodo, a resident of the village Ikarama.
Zembla said a former security guard with Shell, who admitted he had vandalised the pipelines, stated that Shell supervisors make secret arrangements with young people from different regions.
“And then they split the money from the cleanup. The recovery department from Shell sabotages the pipelines. If the cleanup will take seven months, they’ll stop after only three months,” it said.
Zembla said another saboteur admitted that he had taken part in multiple acts of vandalism that were arranged by Shell employees. “We went along with this out of hunger,” the man said.
“Zembla is in possession of documents appearing to show that Shell’s subsidiary SPDC was repeatedly notified of these accusations,” the release said.
“Shell hasn’t responded to questions about what the company has done with this information. Shell states that: ‘SPDC takes these kind of accusations very seriously. If we find any evidence that supports these accusations, we will report it to the Nigerian authorities.'”
The release said it appears from the investigation that the Dutch embassy has also been aware of these accusations for at least two years, but has done nothing about them.
“On the 30th of November 2018 the erstwhile Dutch ambassador Robert Petri visited the village of Ikarama in the Niger Delta. Many of the local people openly spoke out against the corrupt Shell employees who are causing the leaks. On video, Petri can be seen promising the people that: ‘We will share this information with Shell and the government’. Nothing ever came of this commitment,” Zembla stated.
“In response to questions from Zembla, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms that: ‘Because of the premature departure of Robert Petri as ambassador to Nigeria, he hasn’t been able to follow through on his commitment’. Petri left his post at the beginning of 2019, partly because he had passed on secret information to Shell regarding a corruption investigation being conducted by the FIOD.
“The Ministry claims that his replacements had no knowledge of the accusations against the Shell employees. A curious statement, considering e-mails show that the Second Embassy Secretary from the Dutch post in Nigeria had been corresponding about these accusations as late as May of this year.
“When asked about this, the Ministry supposed that their commitment had ‘slipped through the cracks’.
“The Ministry also stated that it was only after being questioned by Zembla that the current ambassador even broached the subject with Shell,” the release said.
The alleged action of Shell employees would have been considered as criminal in the Netherlands, the release said.
Bamidele Odugbesan, a spokesperson for Shell in Nigeria, told PREMIUM TIMES that Shell did not have any formal report of named employees or contractors involved in pipeline vandalism or crude oil theft.
“SPDC, like other Shell companies globally, investigates all credible reports it receives of misconduct or unethical behaviour and takes robust action where evidence exists. SPDC has multiple ways the public can report allegations of wrongdoing by anyone working for SPDC, including a 24/7 telephone and email helpline.
“SPDC also monitors its joint venture facilities and any incident or suspected criminal activities are promptly reported to the regulators and government security agencies for investigation and possible prosecution.
“All spills are assessed by a government-led joint investigation team. Where sabotage is established, the clean-up contract is not awarded to contractors from the host community to ensure that possible accomplices do not benefit from such activities. SPDC cleans up and remediates areas impacted by spills that come from its operations, irrespective of cause of spill,” Mr Odugbesan stated in an email, on Thursday.
Nigeria’s Niger Delta region has been heavily polluted by the exploration activities of oil companies operating in the region, which have destroyed water resources and farmlands in communities, and contributed to poverty and death rate in the region.
United Nation Environment Programme, which recommended the cleanup of Ogoniland in a 2011 report, said it could take between 25 to 30 years to clean up and restore the environment in Ogoniland, for instance.